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Bookstore Conversations: John Part I

On Wednesday afternoon, at the Sacramento-area bookstore where I work, I got into an intense exchange about abortion with a regular customer I'll call John, just as I was ringing up a boatload of history books for him.

John's a regular, about 70 y.o., considers himself a leisure historian. I grant you, he is knowledgeable about WWI and II, Vietnam, Grenada & the Gulf War. He opposes the Iraq war, and thinks George Bush is one bad dude. He's always come aross a very decent guy and possibly a Dem, so his ruminations on abortion took me by surprise. His words are loathsome, but read on: he isn't quite the caricature of an addlebrained knuckle-dragger that he seems to be (not to say his deviations from type redeem him that much).

It didn't begin this way exactly, but we got to our controversial points fast, so in the interest of brevity in the retelling of my tale, herewith I will do likewise.

It sounds as if you want to see abortion made illegal again and ASAP, is that right?" I asked.

His (predictable) answer, with an unlikely twist in the tale, after the flip.

Right away he let me know that "life begins at conception." Well I guess that's that, I said to myself. End of conversation. But it wasn't. As he warmed to his subject, I kept quiet, and let him reveal truths much more telling than the pseudo-religious, shallow line he issued at first.

This diary, then, is a faithful paraphrase of one (formerly southern) man's unabashed, uncensored, vivid thoughts about women and women's sexuality; you don't often get to hear the full throttle misogyny and fear that operates just beneath the surface of many men's fulminations against abortion. Here are his responses to my first question.

  • If women don't want to be mothers, they shouldn't have sex. Fifty years ago, women had the sense to say NO. They knew the consequences. Legalized abortion removed the consequences, creating a generation of sluts. A fellow today can't tell who's a nice girl and who's not, because women are no longer accountable to their families, and no one thinks about God anymore, and the walking-around child that used to warn a guy of a woman's unsavory past are all murdered before they get a chance to walk anywhere.

  • Pregnancy out of wedlock is the mark of the slut. Men deserve to know what sort of woman they're dealing with. Abortion allows women to get off scott free, to hide the truth of their natures. Make abortion illegal again and women will learn to say NO again, like they did in the 50s.

  • Back alley abortions didn't happen. Only a handful of women resorted to that kind of thing. Without recourse to legal abortion, women knew if they messed around that that's where they'd probably end up--in a back alley somewhere, spreading their legs again, this time for somebody faking to be doctor, using unsanitary implements. Fear of the fake doctor had a function in society; it deterred women from having sex. We removed a deterrent that worked. I don't understand why we did that.

  • If a woman is so coarse, frivolous and rude that she has sex outside of marriage, gets herself pregnant, tries to cover up her behavior and worst of all conspires to kill the child she made, then the sterilization or death of her is no loss to society. But butchered abortions didn't happen. People will try to say it happened right and left but the truth is there weren't that many unmarried pregnant women running around. Because they knew better to get like that! All the problems started after abortion was legalized.

  • Men need sex, women don't. The only kind of woman who can't hold the line with a man is the kind of woman who likes sex the way a man likes sex (and that's not right, was the implication). By nature men will always try to get sex, but in their hearts they don't want a woman to give it (especially if he fancies her). The instant she gives into him, she erases all her charms. He might seem to like it, and yes he will come back for more of it, but in his heart he doesn't care for her anymore. That's a true fact, no mater what a man says contrariwise. There's no love that can redeem a slut. Faithful women don't have strong passions.

Me: What is a slut, exactly?

- She plays it as if she likes you best, but sooner or later you find out she's been going to bed with your friends. Humiliating. Hurts, too. Hurts your feelings. You've been played a fool, going around with a run-around, a whore. What does it say about you? What does it say about your own quality as a person?

Me: But men indulge in premarital sex all the time without permanent damage to their reputation. Why should a woman be punished for doing the same as a man? What's with the double standard?

- What? (Audible incredulity.) It's a different thing when you're taking about a fellow. Have you ever heard of a male slut? The first thing a man needs when he starts out in the world is a faithful wife. A slut will leave you high and dry with babies to raise by yourself, and that's a humiliation you can't keep private. Everybody sees you married wrong. That's why you don't marry those types.


As you might imagine it was hard to listen to all this and keep my peace, but I did because at the start of our conversation, just after he informed me he was pro-life on religious grounds (and I informed him I'm pro-choice), he told me an astonishing, humanizing, confounding story that made me want to hear him out, draw him out. Sometime in the early 80s, his youngest daughter got pregnant and he helped her obtain an abortion. He stands by his decision to this day.

Bookstore Conversations: John Part II: A Teaser

She was a freshman in college, gifted in math as well as the arts, and the only child of five (two daughters, three sons) to go to university. A precocious kid before school began, it was no surprise to her father that intelligence tests administered in the third grade revealed a superior IQ. So this anti-choice, seemingly staunchly misogynistic man, buttons popping with pride, vowed that he would have the money in the bank to pay for his smart daughter's college tuition when the time came, and by golly, he followed through. He took a night job, helped her make smart academic choices all through middle and high school, and told me of his endless shushing of her brothers for making "rumpus" and disrupting her studies (and, somewhat less gallantly, of taking his belt to them on one occasion, for making fun of her mousy studiousness).

Having gone on at an amazingly windy length already, especially for a first diary, I've decided to break here. Please look for Part II, up soon, and thanks for reading.

[1] The title of this diary was lifted whole and breathing from a line in Lorraine's Hell is for Teenage Girls. Homage.

Originally posted to aitchdee on Thu Apr 28, 2005 at 10:46 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  The man has issues (4.00)
    She plays it as if she likes you best, but sooner or later you find out she's been going to bed with your friends. Humiliating. Hurts, too. Hurts your feelings. You've been played a fool, going around with a run-around, a whore. What does it say about you? What does it say about your own quality as a person?
    The first thing a man needs when he starts out in the world is a faithful wife. A slut will leave you high and dry with babies to raise by yourself, and that's a humiliation you can't keep private. Everybody sees you married wrong. That's why you don't marry those types.

    I think these two statements probably get to the heart of this guy's issues more than anything else.

    "Michael Savage is the concience (sic) of the conservative movement"--Free Republic Poster

    by soonergrunt on Thu Apr 28, 2005 at 11:18:52 PM PDT

  •  Unfortunately, what he did for his own daughter... (4.00)
    ...he wants to deny to other peoples' daughters.

    This reminds me of the Cheneys, Mary is OK but all other dykes are subhuman.

    Or the people who have one black, Hispanic, Vietnamese person who is "OK" but they don't generalize from that that others of that race/ethnicity are OK too.

    It's all part of the hypocrisy that is so engrained in these people.

    For the record: I also believe life begins at conception. That's science, not religion. I believe termination of a pregnancy is termination of the life of the fetus. That's science too. I had an abortion myself, which, while I believe it was the best choice under the circumstances, was extremely traumatic to me and I resent people who act like it's no big deal. And I believe that it is incumbent on people to do their best NOT to bring a pregnancy about rather than be sloppy about birth control because there's always abortion if they screw up.

    However, I am also pro-choice. I can't imagine how horrible it must be to be forced to have a child you don't want and it is equally horrible for the child to be unwanted. Unlike the hypocrites who want things to be one way for themselves and 'their' people while forcing something different on everyone else, I agree with Kant's maxim that sin consists in making an exception of yourself in behavior you expect others to follow.

    Perhaps John's action with his daughter makes him more human to you. To me, it makes him even more repulsive.

    -- Life is tough: Three out of three die. Now shut up and deal. ~Ring Lardner Jr.

    by Eleftheria on Thu Apr 28, 2005 at 11:20:11 PM PDT

    •  Well, there is nothing (3.66)
      more human than hypocrisy.  

      This story so far reminds me of the typical "pro-life" Southern Baptist mom from a small East Texas town, who lies to her husband that she's taking their cheerleader-and-straight-A-student daughter to Dallas to get a prom dress instead of an abortion.

      The kids do just fine; it's their mothers who ought to get the IV sedation. Some of them have been so worried that their sin will be discovered that they've called us in an attempt to find out whether anyone else from their town is on our appointment book for the same day.

      We see at least one of them every Saturday, and on Sunday morning she can slip right back into her accustomed pew -- with a heavier conscience, perhaps, but a lighter heart.

      Hypocrisy is repulsive, all right, but it is surely human.

  •  You ought to retitle the piece: (none)
    "Confessions of a bitter geezer who got bitten on his pecker a thousand years ago."

    It's brain damage pure and simple. The same kind of logic that leads people to believe in anal probing UFO's and batboy. Gramps knows exactly what he would do in any given situation, and he's right of course, so anyone with different opinions is an evil reflection of the dark side of his heart. Next time he comes in try this: drop his change (accidentally) on the floor, and when he stoops over to pick it up drop the "Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire" on his withered skull and watch the improvement!

    It hurts when I do this...

    by PBJ Diddy on Fri Apr 29, 2005 at 04:49:01 AM PDT

  •  Herself (none)
    Yes, it is the woman who gets herself pregnant- not like it involves the responsability of anyone else.
  •  I like this. (none)
    Real comments on Part 2.
  •  Only other people's daughters are sluts (none)
    My sister went to law school at Baylor, a Baptist college in Texas.  She knew a local, they could go out to the abortion protests and the local would point out the pro-life women on the line who had taken their daughters to get abortions.  

    My experience of the world is that things left to themselves don't get right. (TH Huxley)

    by sberel on Fri Apr 29, 2005 at 05:49:30 AM PDT

  •  Well I don't know what's worse... (none)
    someone who throws their daughter out of the house upon finding out she's pregnant? At least that person's being consistent...

    I'm pro-choice, but I don't think that means people should be operating without rules or boundaries or responsibilities of any sort in matters of sexuality (or anything else, for that matter).

    For example, in my opinion if anyone (male or female) is consistently getting drunk and having sex with people they might not have otherwise had sex with, they should stop. Or if you're going to make the decision to have sex, you should also make the decision to use birth control. Or if you see signs of an abusive relationship, you should try to get out as soon as you can.

    Of course we're all human and "accidents happen", but that's not the same as saying it's a free for all and there should be no rules. My rules are not the same as this fellow's rules, but I do have them. Dems get into trouble regarding these issues because other people seem to think that they have no rules or expectations for responsible behavior at all. Is that really the case?

    Abortions go up under Republicans. Business is better under Democrats. Pass it on.

    by JMS on Fri Apr 29, 2005 at 07:43:09 AM PDT

  •  Relevant statistics and facts (none)
    People didn't stop having sex in the 50's. Thus 295 million Americans.

    This guy is obviously extrapolating trends from personal observations rather than any actual studies. But I wish I knew some of the numbers:

    What percentage of Americans were born out of wedlock?
    What are the top reasons why women get abortions?
    What were the rates of out of wedlock sex in the 50's, 60's, 70's, 80's, 90's, 00's?
    "no one thinks about God anymore"
    This is ridiculously, demonstrably false. But sure. What are church attendance rates now and then?
    How many abortions occurred in private in the 50's?

    A lot of the reasoning is circular: abortions didn't happen because they were unpleasant when they happened. Did they happen or not?

    This guy also seems to think that

    Some questions to ask him:

    Did he ever engage in premarital sex in the 50's and wouldn't that invalidate the claim that there was no (or some nominal amount of) premarital sex in the 50's?

    Where does rape and incest fit in? Would he force a woman to bring to term a baby created under those circumstances? If yes, the usual answer to that is justified by "God wanted it that way." but this logic spreads to any kind of suffering that could afflict a person: would God want your car to hydroplane and go off a cliff, or should you try to avoid that when driving on wet roads? If an intruder was in your home and threatened to shoot you, would you just shrug and say "God wants it this way" or would you act in self-defense? If you had all your money invested in a dot-com stock and you knew it was going to tank, would you take your money out or would you just accept that "God wanted it this way?" If he answers No, then how do you determine which cases involve rape and incest?

    The slut that will leave you high and dry with babies to raise -- was that, mayhaps, a previous wife?

    Also I was unaware that men want to have sex with women but don't actually want it.

    This is a great, thought-provoking diary

    The appearance of law must be upheld, especially when it's being broken

    by Boss Tweed on Fri Apr 29, 2005 at 08:23:24 AM PDT

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